US-Iranian reporter leaves Iran after forced stay

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PRAGUE, Sep 18 (Reuters) US-Iranian reporter Parnaz Azima has left Iran for the United States after more than eight months of forced stay in the country, her employer said today.

Azima, who came to see her ailing mother in January, was detained for cooperating with ''anti-revolutionary'' media but later freed on bail, an Iranian judiciary source said in June.

Her passport, which had been confiscated, was returned to her in early September and authorities said she was free to go.

Azima is based in Prague where she works for Radio Farda, the Persian language service of U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America.

''(Azima) has left Iran and is en route to the United States -- but criminal charges against her have not been lifted,'' RFE/RL said in a statement.

''We are happy Parnaz can finally be reunited with her family and see her newborn grandchild for the first time,'' RFE/RL President Jeff Gedmin said.

Earlier this month another Iranian-American citizen, Haleh Esfandiari, flew out of Tehran some two weeks after being freed on bail following more than three months in detention on spying charges.

Their cases and those of two other Iranian-Americans detained this year have stoked tension with Iran's old foe, the United States, at a time of a deepening international standoff over the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions.

REUTERS ARB VC1932

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